It has been nearly a week since we returned from Nepal and I’m just starting to get everything I observed and experienced into perspective. Clearly, it was a profoundly meaningful experience and one thing I’m absolutely certain about is the value of providing a therapeutic music and art resource to these children.
One exercise that helped bring everything into focus transpired toward the end of our visit when the film crew took time to interview members of our team for the documentary. I had the good fortune to be toward the end of that list and this provided the opportunity to learn about what other team members answered when asked why they were involved and what they hoped the program would accomplish.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, everyone had a unique and personal perspective and I was no expectation. At the same time, I’m grateful that the film crew implemented this process toward the end of our trip because my answer would have been different if we conducted these interviews several days beforehand. The turning point in my thinking came after getting to know a number of the Unatti Girls (learn more).
One question I made sure to ask each one of the girls is what they wanted to be when they grow up. It seemed like nice, safe question to ask but I was struck by the answers, or to be more precise, the non-answers. A number of the girls responded with a quizzical look while others gave indifferent replies.
At first, I thought it was a combination of teen bashfulness and minor language barriers. I quickly learned this wasn’t the case after bringing up the topic to Unatti Foundation founder, Stephanie Waiser. I learned that the notion of “pursuit of happiness” that is embodied in a simple question like “what do you want to be when you grow up?” is in many ways a foreign concept to the girls.
Apparently, restrictions in the pursuit of happiness are still common as a result of the traditional caste system. Consequently, the notion of dreaming big and believing in “yes you can” to change your station in life through hard work, study, and determination is something the children in Bhaktapur simply don’t enjoy.
This struck at my core as my own life story is defined by using music as a vehicle and support system to move beyond the poor working socioeconomic class that identified my childhood. Studying music produced necessary coping skills to develop determination, it sparked a creative edge that helped me accelerate at academic studies, and it provided the means to develop a razor sharp work ethic based on self reliance. Throughout my entire life music and art have served as the core of transformative revelation. They inspire ideas, allow me to see something unique, unusual, and interesting but perhaps most importantly, they are the gateway toward a meaningful pursuit of happiness.
Although my original impetus for being involved with HEARTbeats could best be summed up as doing a good thing for the right reasons, I left Nepal with a much stronger and personal connection: purpose. Satisfying my own sense of purpose by helping these children find their voices while remaining true to their cultural and societal heritage as well as helping them utilize music and art to find and focus purpose in their respective pursuits of happiness.
Ultimately, I’m more confident than ever that the foundation is moving in the right direction and within the next year, we’ll have a sustainable program in place that provides year-round service. Between now and then, all we have to do is make it happen.